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Don't Buy a Soundbar Until You Read This

Yeah, a little over dramatic, I'll admit. But I do want you to stop an think before plopping hard earned money on a soundbar to go with that fancy new 4K TV you got for Christmas that sounds like do-do because, well, most flat panel TV's do. One exception are some of the LG's, even the cheap ones.

Why you should not buy a sound bar 

OK, maybe you should if you have very limited space and very limited budget. Sound bars can be had in price ranges from $99 to $1,000 plus and succeed in delivering excellent sound in some situations. What they don't do well is deliver true, seating independent depth and breath of sound.

The way sound bars without satellite speakers for the rear speaker operate is by using software to make your ears think sound is coming from another direction, even without a speaker being there. Some do this very well. The challenge is they have a very limited "sweet spot" from which they can deliver that faux surround experience. If you sit outside those spots you get mixed if any results for surround.

True 5 speaker surround

Even inxpensive 5.1 surround speaker systems with a lower end surround sound receiver will outshine even some of the best sound bars. To be fair you're not going to find a 5.1 surround speaker system with receiver for $99, or even $199 for that matter but once you get to the $299-499 area there are quite a few decent options that will outshine even the best sounding soundbars. (note, this is strictly our opinion, but... if you go listen, we think you'll agree.

Why? There is just simply no way a surround bard can duplicate what 5 speaker and a subwoofer can do to deliver distinct points of sound.

The all important center channel speaker. One of the big misses of most sound bars is the inability to separate the center channel, dialog delivering speaker from the left and right channels. Even if they offer a 3 way setup they still by their nature are much to physically close to each other to offer the true benefit of a discrete center channel speaker. 

So what should you look at?

Lets start at the bottom end. At $299 (at this writing) the 
Pioneer HTP-074 5.1 Channel Home Theater Package can deliver some high quality home theater experience at an incredible price. 

Yamaha YHT-4920UBL 5.1-Channel Home Theater comes in at only $399 and delivers 4.5 star results that should really perform head and shoulders above a sound bar. 

Beyond pre packaged systems there are plenty of speaker and receiver combinations you can put together for under $600 that will knock your sonic socks off. As a reference point, spend a little more on the speakers than the receiver as they will have more of an effect on your experience than the electronics. 

Happy listening. 

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